Who is building 2 robots

[font=Arial] [font=Arial]Wildstang has been doing a second practice robot for a few years now for many reasons:

  1.   Give the drivers lots of practice – As Dr Joe has often said, good driver skills can overcome lots of issues with your robot.
    
  2.    Allow the students to really build a robot.  We build the practice robot first (as a prototype) from 80-20 extrusions.  And the students get to do a lot more work on this one than on the one that gets welded together by our machinist.  
    
  3.   We try out all the rough concepts on the proto before we solidify the design on the shipped robot.  The shipped robot gets built in the last 10 days or so.  This is how we get away without doing an entire 3D CAD model of the robot (although, we use to do when we had more mechanical mentor help)
    
  4.   It let’s us practice different strategies and robot functions to see how well they work
    
  5.   We get to try out different autonomy programs between competitions.
    

Of course the practice robot usually would not pass inspection and is usually overweight.

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Let me preceed this post with how much admiration I have for Team 111, and all FIRST teams. Your integrity is not in question here. We (1038) would love to build a second machine, and might do so this year.
This post brings to question the shipping deadline. Does the FIRST “Out-of-hands” deadline mean that we ship the robot and ALL other work ceases? Or can we continue to improve the machine and program after the deadline? I know we don’t make spares, or changes after the ship date, but how does driver / programming practice fit in? I have always interpreted the rules to mean we ship, cease ALL work, and pick up again on the practice day of our first regional.
Does the work (driving practice, strategy, machine design / analysis) continue after the shipping deadline? If so, I would think that a second machine would allow teams to work in that area outside of the ship deadline and far from “gracious professionalism.” If not, a second machine would be an excellent tool to use to train drivers during the build season while the final product is being manufactured.

All of these questions will be answered in the 2004 rules book. Don’t assume the rules will stay the same as they have in previous years. Last years rules never had anything against programming for a test bot after shipping the competition legal bot. They did however have rules on making new parts/replacement parts. As for practice driving on a 2nd bot that you made during the 6 week period, that is perfectly legal to previous FIRST rulings. Some teams even built a 2nd copy bot after the first bot had shipped, however with there only being 9 days from ship to the first regional weekend that will probably be a much less likely solution this year. After the rules book comes out this year if anything isn’t clear to you and your team about working after shipping you can ask on the FIRST questions board, and I’m sure Brandon will open up the Q&A forum this year as it was very helpful last year.

Having a 2nd robot as Raul said is a very big help for driver training. I know from experiance on my high school team that even a robot with a similar style and speed drive can be a big help if you can’t build a complete 2nd bot. My teams 2001 robot had a very similar drive at the same speed as our 2003 drive so after shipping we used that robot to practice on a bit. I know newer teams probably won’t have the luxury of old robots just lying around waiting to be driven, but maybe other teams in your area do. But anyways, building a 2nd robot is a big advantage and if your team has the funding and people willing to try it, I would suggest giving it a try.

FIRST was very clear last year that we were allowed to work on the autonomous programming after the robot shipped. In fact, they allowed teams to keep the operator interface (i.e. it didn’t have to ship with the robot) so teams could work on programming while the main robot was away. This was stated clearly in the rules.

Along this same line, there is (I should say was) no rule prohibiting a second machine for driver practice, nor is it against gracious professionalism to have a second machine. Many teams have been doing it for years.

There is no way for FIRST to say that ALL work on your robot must stop after it ships. FIRST can say that you can’t manufacture new systems and bring them to a competition (this is reasonable), but there’s no way they can say that you can’t continue development (and developing new ideas); this is like saying that you are not allowed to think or be creative, which is like asking someone not to breath or sleep. People are always going to brainstorm new ways to win with strategy or robot changes that they can make once they get to the competition - it’s only natural.

As for our team - I always push for a second robot. It rarely happens, but I’m hoping to do it this year. The only year we did it was 2002, and we had a pretty good year that year.

-Chris

I cannot see how we will ever choose not to build a second robot given the following conditions:

#1 Chief Delphi is committed to fielding a robot that is competitive
#2 Autonomous Mode is a major factor in the game
#3 We have to ship our real robot to the competitions (what I mean is we don’t have the real robot someplace we can actually practice automonous mode from the ship date until the Championships)

With the exception of our 1st year in FIRST (when I didn’t know better) and last year (when the above 3 conditions were met), I have been perhaps the strongest advocate of build one robot.

Historically this has been my advice to our team or any team that wants to be competitive:
#1 Pick a design direction early
#2 Build it as fast as you can
#3 Practice/program before you ship.

Assuming Autonomy is here in 2004, this is what I recommend to teams that want to be competitive:
#1 Think about designs & construction methods in the off season
#2 Prototype as much as #1 you can before kickoff to find your mistakes before kickoff
#3 Give #1 & #2 you can now design a robot that is as mechanically simple and robust as you can
#4 Design in the electronic hooks you need (feedback, custom PCB, sensors, etc.) to be a top shelf autonomous team
#5 Build TWO robots
#6 Ship one robot on the shipdate (practically undriven)
#7 Program and practice and practice and program for 8 weeks with the second robot to make sure your drivers can drive without thinking and that your robot does what is needs to during the Autonomous period.

I don’t want to come off too high and mighty here, but I think, frankly, that most of the above is beyond most teams in FIRST.

This is one of my main reasons for opposing continuation of the Autonomous Experiement. In essence it is a reverse Robin Hood scheme: It makes the advantage of resource rich teams ever greater while making it even harder for resource poor teams teams to be competitive.

Autonomous Mode is the death of “FIRST is a 6 week program” idea. It has always been somewhat of a fib, but Autonomous Mode turns it into a WHOPPER.

Joe J.

We have always built 2 robots, since 1997. They have ranged from very rudimentary drive bases to almost complete copies. I’d say our average 2nd robot is 65-85% accurate.

Our construction method (lots of flat plates and little welding) lends itself to making/using spares easily. We take advantage of that (and our capable machine shop) to make spares at the same time we are making originals. It makes the parts legal, and it gives us a set that we can modify while the other parts are assembled (and hopefully running) on the robot. Note: for complex parts this is not always practical, and for some parts its not necessary.

While I agree that auto mode is more likely to drive more teams into a 2nd bot, I think the need for practice is more than enough to drive competitive teams there anyway. We get as much or more out of practice than we do out of auto-experimentation-after-ship.

Joe, I don’t think auto-mode is an Experiment any more… its a feature :)). I belive in the “6 weeks” concept, including the need to make auto mode work during that time. We are all going to get better at running auto mode … someday.

Ken

Here is the general 229 plan:

This fall we prototyped a new drivetrain concept. Fully designed and built, state of the art by 2003 standards (she’s a beauty).

Starting next week, (if the game allows) we’ll tweak the design of this drivetrain, design in a chassis/mechanism and start building. The new drivetrain will likely handle very similarly to the prototype, despite design differences… (they’ll be like siblings… somewhat different, but very much alike).

Once we get the competition robot moving and shipped, (depending on the game, and our motivation and workload) we’ll take our existing prototype and put some sort of practice mechanism on top. Hopefully that will allow us a good bot for driver and autonomous practice.

Virtues of this plan:
-Gives the entire team some practice in the fall.
-Good team building.
-Lets the team experiment in some new technology without “pressure”
-Team has the time to work the bugs out of things, find major problems. Problems in design, manufacture, performance… it’s greatly beneficial.
-Allows for a practice robot (driver, autonomous and pit crew training).
-SAVES TIME… if the game allows it, this drive is one less thing our designers need to worry about.

Problems of this plan:
-If our prototype robot won’t fit into FIRST’s game AT ALL… back to the drawing board.
-It cost us some $$$ in the fall to build our beast…
-Might not match “competition” robot perfectly.

As far as we were concerned, the benefits outweigh the negatives. I certainly valued the experience this fall, and I can’t wait to build “the little sister” robot.

Everything depends on the game… Saturday can’t come fast enough.

John

In order to make clear to everyone just how much of a Reverse Robin Hood Scheme the Autonomous Mode is, I am going to channel the spirit of Car Knack for a few minutes:

If Autonomous Mode is at least as important this year as it was last year, the 2004 Championship will be WildStangIzed.

WildStangIzed mean the following:
The winning alliance from EVERY division at the Championships will be anchored (not necessarily the alliance captain, but the alliance ANCHOR if you know what I mean) by a Powerhouse Team (i.e. not a rookie or a 2nd year team known as perennial competitive robots builders) with a Killer Autonomous Program (i.e. dominant performance during the Autonomous Period that gives their alliance such a huge advantage over their opponents that the match is theirs to loose after the first 15 seconds of the match).

4 of a kind… …read’em and weep.

Joe J.

P.S. My apologies to Bill Beatty (for borrowing the spirit of Car Knack) and WildStang (for the “verbizing” their team name). JJ

Team 302 has been building two robots for the past two years. In fact, the only year we didn’t build two was our rookie season in 2001. My suggestion for building two robots is such - Rookies don’t and non-rookies do. Simple as that. Rookies have far too much to learn and building one robot is a feat, let alone two! Non-rookie teams have “been around the block” before, so I would think building two is not out of range (financial resources is a whole other issue).

Raul: I found it very interesting that 111 makes the prototype robot into the second robot. 302 builds two identical machines, which means that we have to have our final design ready to go and then fabricate like heck! Some would say that this is inefficient, but I vehemently deny that. We take our 2nd robot to all competitions (yes, Nationals too), which allows us to have spare parts - we just happen to have a spare part of everything. I like the idea of using the prototype robot as the second robot, but we typically build our proto’s (for short) out of wood to save on some costs. What I like about Raul’s philosophy is that it is a time saver because you don’t have to have two exact alike machines, but I also see the benefits in going the extra mile to create a spare part of everything.

Just a note… my next comment is not meant to be bragging, but to make a point:

In 2002, we were even modular enough to swap out frames, if need be, because the two machines were exact twins. Reminder: Beatty nearly lost the National Title because SPAM (180) broke their frame in the second Championship match (out of three total matches).

I know swapping frames is a quite a stretch! But my point is that having two exact machines (as long as they are modular) allows you several advantages - all of which Raul all ready noted.

The only negative or disadvantage to building two machines is… “Where the heck to put these things?” (post-season comment made by our team’s project leader). :smiley: We actually now hang the robots from the ceiling of our machine shop - a reminder of what hard work buys.

Good luck everyone this season. I truly believe that this year’s game will be the most exciting and competitive game that FIRST has presented. As the old adage goes: “2 bots are better than 1” (or something like that)

RAGE makes an “evil twin” practice bot as well. We use it to practice with our drivers and with our programming. It also helps that we have a building donated to the team and that we are able to put a full playing field down every year.

The FEDS have always just built one robot. We always talk about building a second, but we never end up with the time or motivation to build the robot all over again. We have done some things before, though, like building a prototype bot first, and using our old robots as practice testbeds. It’s worked well so far, but I’d always like to have a second robot. Maybe it’ll happen this year. I do know that if autonomous is as big as it was last year, then Dr. Joe is probably right on the money, in which case I’ll be pushing it much harder this year.

I agree that 2 robots would be amazingly helpful, especially with autonomous. However, I know that for my team… we can barely scrape by with the money we have now. We can barely afford to purchase nuts and bolts at ACE Hardware, much less build an entire 2nd robot. It’s just not possible. This is where the teams with big budgets have a much better advantage… and I think a reason why big budget teams often have much nicer robots, we just have no possible way of doing this with our budget.

I don’t think this is necessarily true… It depends on several factors:

  1. Robot Cost - Obviously a cheap, simple robot is easier to reproduce.

  2. “Clone” Completion - Maybe the team wants a 100% copy, but it isn’t economically practical. If a 50% copy costs 1/4 as much, maybe it’s worth doing instead.

  3. Budgeting.
    Hey man… MANY teams do this.
    Not all of them are the “big spenders” we know and love. It all depends what you decide to spend your money on. Some teams pay for student travel to all events and complimentary t-shirts to team members… other teams might consider this $$$ better spent on a 2nd robot. If you find a way to put the 2nd robot into your budget at the beggining of the year, then you’ll have the money for when you need it – instead of trying to find this cash when the time comes.

It depends where your priorities are.

Personally, I always lean toward making the team more competitive, while trimming some of the “frills”. In MY mind, a 2nd robot is one of the best investments one can make… although, this has a lot to do with my FIRST philosophy, and others would probably be quick to disagree. :wink:

John, I couldn’t agree with you more! I think that “frills”, as you put it, should be cut for a second robot. Each student on my team is required to pay a hefty amount of money to DCX to help with the budgeting. Still, teams may struggle to come up with the money.

I also wanted to point out, many people (like the FEDS member) claim they don’t have the motivation, time, or energy to create another robot “over again.” Honestly, we build two robots at the same time. If you can build two of one piece, why not four (if you can afford this of course)? The point is this: building one machine and then another is simply inefficient and quite a daunting task, but after you fabricate one piece, you can create an assembly line and fabricate several. This is how two machines are produced by 302.

Rage builds 2 robots simulationasly as well. Most of our building goes on at one high school ( we have 5) and they just build both at once, usually having the engineer put together a part, then having a student make the second one ( so we know what it SHOULD look like, most of the time :wink: ) This helps a lot, because the students know how everything goes together, and so do the engineers!! The first robot is shipped on the ship date, and is compeition robot. The second was stays as the “evil twin” (as jon said before) and is shown to students who didn’t build it, and used constantly for driving practice. The evil twin is ALWAYS made of as many 2nd hand parts as possible, yet still as close as we can get to the real thing, so we will know how it runs, what problems could be and how to fix them. This is, unfortunatly for other, fortunatly for us, a HUGE advantage, also having the full size field to pratice on, thus our drivers know basically what will happen and get PLENTY of practice driving the robot. So basically, what we do agrees completely with what John & everyone has said.:stuck_out_tongue:
And i do believe it is a great way to do things!

note: anyone who wants to during or after build is welcome to use our field, just let someone know!!

team 217 had built two robots for the past two years, its a very good practice and gives the drivers extra practice, and allows us to make improvements to the robot after the ship date.

We didn’t build an identical second bot’ last year, instead we modified the 2002 robot and used it to work out the bugs in the Auton program as well as practice different strategys. It also gave the drivers much needed practice.

This year we are building 2 robots without a doubt. Once you have the drawings completed making duplicates of all the parts isn’t haard once you have the pieces laid out and have the machinery setup to cut the parts. We will build the 2 simoultaneously. We won’t however, have to make a second set of transmissions. The 2003 trannys are still in great shape and will be interchangable with the 2004 trannys. Although the ‘04’s have some major improvements. On Saturday, we are even going to order a complete set of 04’ controls for the second machine. That serves 2 purposes, 1) spares if we should have a failure during a competition(which happenend in Ypsi last year!) and 2) will allow us to use the same programming for both machines.

One parallel FIRST is drawing with NHRA Drag Racing and NASCAR is the competitive teams run at least 2 car teams so they can sort out the tuneup for each track twice as fast. Robots are no different. Having a full scale practice field and 2 identical bot’ gives you the oppurtunity to sort out the “tuneup” that much faster. :cool:

My team does this to some extent, but usually we’ll try some stuff on the previous years robot and see how it works out before putting it on the new 'bot.

generally my team has nither the time or money to build a second bot. even if we didnt spend any money on frills (in our case plain t-shirts and ink jet iron ons, and one of those little box frame furniture scooters for the bot) we’re still way too impoverished. usually we try and put all the effort we can into one good bot. we have a custom frame donated by a local aluminum mill (generally its a heavily modified box) then the rest is effort, like drilling and pounding. we don’t have any aluminum welding ability, so we are completely dependant on our sponsor’s metal shop, and that can take 3 to five days to get anything back. if we did anything it would probably be a simulator for the drivers, but that’s not my department I do the mechanical junk…

To those teams who do build 2 bots: What is your second bot like? Are we talking an identical clone, a wooden or 8020 mockup with duplicate subsystems, a cardboard and wood model with no semblence?